U.S. Nuclear Engineer, Spouse Charged for Trying to Sell Nuclear Submarine Secrets

United States law enforcement officials have charged a Maryland navy nuclear engineer and his wife for trying to sell nuclear submarine secrets to what they believed was a foreign state.

According to the Justice Department, authorities arrested Jonathan and Diana Toebbe in Jefferson County, West Virginia on Oct. 9 for attempting to sell information on the design of nuclear-powered warships to someone they thought was a foreign government representative, but was actually an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.

The case stems from a violation of the Atomic Energy Act that safeguards the country’s nuclear secrets.

The complaint alleges that Jonathan, a 42-year-old nuclear engineer in the Navy, sent a package on April 1, 2020 to an unspecified foreign government containing sample information and instructions “in an attempt to establish a covert relationship.”

The complaint further alleges that Jonathan began writing via encrypted email to an individual he thought was a foreign government representative for several months, leading to a deal of exchanging secret nuclear information for up to $100,000 in cryptocurrency.

The couple allegedly made their first drop of information on June 26, with Jonathan placing “an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged ‘dead drop’ location in West Virginia” and Diana acting as a lookout.

Jonathan then sent a decryption key for the SD card — which contained secret data on submarine nuclear reactors — after the undercover agent sent him payment, the complaint alleges.

Jonathan made a second “dead drop” of an SD card in eastern Virginia and a third in another location in West Virginia with his wife, during which authorities then arrested them.

The couple are set to appear in federal court in Martinsburg, West Virginia on Oct. 12.


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